Just watched Bruce Beresford's MR. CHURCH, a movie about a black man down on his luck who works for two white women and forms a relationship. I mention the skin color because turns out, for Hollywood, this plot is a genre unto itself. You remember Brucie boy directed DRIVING MISS DAISY to great acclaim, another of the black men down on their uppers working for white women and forming a relationship genre. This is perfect example of Hollywood thinking. If it's black men down on their uppers falling in with white women, let the Aussie direct it, he did it before and we gave him and everyone associated with the movie all kinds of Academy Awards. Virtue signaling to ticket buyers.
I must say in MR CHURCH Eddie Murphy gives an absolutely superb performance that is well worth watching. He creates a Mr. Church who is a man of infinite sorrow, joy, love, and love of life, while at the same time, his plight is deeply moving, affecting, and full of the mystery. It is a tour de force of acting that should not be missed. He acts everybody else right off the screen, and that's lucky because the rest of the movie just wanders without him.
I have seen the movie DRIVING MISS DAISY. I realize I am treading on sacred ground to say that I thought it was lousy. I love Morgan Freeman who could read the telephone book aloud and hold an audience spellbound. Ditto Jessica Tandy. But Jessica Tandy is playing a character who is supposed to be a woman of Jewish heritage living in the 1940's south, where people of Jewish extraction were about as common as, well, in deference to Aussie Brucie, kangaroos.
Jessica Tandy, an English actress, played the role of the Jewish lady, Miss Daisy, as if she were an offended Philadelphia High Church Episcopalian; in other words, she played Miss Daisy as a snooty, prim old lady. That's not a very juicy acting choice and makes the theme of the highly lauded movie “prim old lady discovers black man can be human.” I feel she was very miscast in this role or misdirected.
But Hollywood was dead set on turning this story into titillating lightly on the edge of the forbidden land of miscegeny. For those too young to remember, miscegeny was the crime of illegal intermarriage between races. I can hear Hollywood’s favorite Aussie director even now titter, titter all the way down the Academy Awards red carpet to pick up his naked little man statue.
However, the play the movie was based on seemed to me, from listening to the lines in the scenes, to be something altogether different. Misunderstanding material from another source is such a common occurrence in Hollywood that no one should be surprised. But the story actually seems to be about two people who’ve been the victims of racial stereotyping for their whole lives in the deep, provincial south. Their experiences have made them both vigilantly alert to prejudice in everyone, including each other and themselves.
The scene over the missing can of salmon is a perfect example of this. Miss Daisy’s black chauffeur is late to work one morning, because the day before he’s eaten a can of salmon from her pantry. For fear of being accused of stealing it, as black men always are, he stops on the way to work to replace it immediately. And of course, Miss Daisy has summoned her son, because she has noticed the missing can and, for fear of being accused of being the Jewish pound of flesh stereotype of Shylock, she has been lax in her housekeeping until that day when she is almost sure there is a can of salmon missing. It truly is a comedy of errors, in the Shakespearean sense. Both protagonists are fearful, suspicious outsiders in the provincial southern culture and finally transcend all prejudice to love and trust each other as friends. Bringing that theme to life would require subtly and insight into the human condition, not just exploiting the racial overtones, a dramatic endeavor far, far beyond the perception or understanding of anyone in Hollywood.
But old Brucie has another bad habit as a director. He conflates porn and serious purpose, for the delectation of those too timid to either think seriously or enjoy porn for porn’s sake. You know the old mantra of we can get away with a porn scene because we’re handling such a ‘serious’ social issue that it’s almost required. Just to prove how dedicated to truth we are, we will have a full-frontal f****** scenes by real actors, because life is full of real sex and seeing sex in a scene makes the truth excruciatingly real. Just excruciating.
See how they do that? Slip the porn in to sell tickets. Clever devils, aren’t they? But, it’s okay because the director is Aussie, which means he has a British accent, so he, like all Brits, is considered a direct descendant of Shakespeare and above reproach.
I refer to him as Bruce BaresItAll. Whenever he isn’t the miscegeny director of choice, he’s slipping some juicy porn into fake serious subject matter. So, you didn’t go to see the movie because of the sex. No, no, the sex was proof of its serious purpose. Right?
Here’s some evidence of what I’m talking about:
DOUBLE JEOPARDY: in which Ashly Judd gets down and dirty with her husband who then turns around and truly F**** her. Women’s rights are for women who don’t enjoy hard core sex. Those who do, get punished. A worthwhile liberal truism.
BLACK ROBE: in which a native American is shown to be susceptible to doing the dirty and getting himself killed so the good guys, one of whom is a priest, can escape. Priests cause trouble in somewhat flawed native American Garden of Eden.
PARADISE ROAD: Here the Japanese engage in mass white female nudity with overtones of lesbianism, too, as I recall. But the women sing opera and defy their captors, so, we can see this is a worthwhile, historical film.
A GOOD MAN IN AFRICA: A good man is hard to find? Or vice versa? When the good man is Sean Connery and Joanne Whalley is in the cast, we know we’re going to get a delightful eyeful of female flesh. She can always be depended upon to take her clothes off to great effect. Never saw it, so I have no idea of the social justice theme here.
THE LAST DANCE: Woman on death row starring Sharon Stone. Need I say more?
Ah, Hollywood, if I hadn’t seen it for myself, I wouldn’t have believed that people could sink so low and be so obvious. They make Sodom and Gomorrah look like kindergarteners at the depravity game. Fire and Brimstone anyone?